Friday, February 27, 2015

The Sparkle of Diamonds–Group 1 Racing at Caulfield

race 3_fontiton 2
Blue Diamond favourite Fontiton in the mounting yard at Caulfield 14 February 2015

Caulfield Racecourse hosts the Blue Diamond Stakes meeting this Saturday with three Group 1 races on the program, the feature being the Blue Diamond Stakes.

I’ve attended Blue Diamond Stakes Day for the last three years and have no intention of missing this one. It’s always a great day of racing, even though the feature race is the second last on the card.

As it will be a long day, and forecast to be hot, I don’t want to get to Caulfield too early, despite the first two races being quite interesting and at Group 3 level, so aim to arrive in time for Race 3 – the Angus Armanesco Stakes – which is scheduled for 2.40pm.

It’s a Group 2 race for three year old fillies run over 1400 metres.  An attractive field has been assembled that includes the classy local fillies Fontein Ruby, Sabatini and Marple Miss, a visitor from Sydney with excellent form. I’m hoping Fontein Ruby, second up, can win this.  She ran a close third to Sabatini in the Kevin Hayes Stakes a fortnight ago, so could easily turn the tables on her in this race.

Race 4, the Caulfield Autumn Classic is also a Group 2 event run over 1800 metres and is for three year olds of either sex.  The field does not look all that inspiring, but youngsters like Moonovermanhattan, Magicool, Firehouse Rock  and Hong Kong Captain have a good chance to add a black type race win to their records.

The first of the Group 1 races is the Futurity Stakes and programmed as race 5. Run over 1400 metres it is a standard weight for age competition. Dissident is the obvious class horse in the field, so I doubt if any other horse in the field can beat him.  In fact it’s a pretty second rate field, excluding Dissident, with old troupers Smokin’ Joey and Mister Milton making up the number. Entirely Platinum who ran second to Dissident in the Orr Stakes, along with mares Driefontein and Suavito  seem the only other chances.

2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is the attraction in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes, though the distance (1800 metres) may be too short for him. Even so,  Fiorente the 2013 Melbourne Cup winner won it last year, so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that Protectionist can take the prize this year. The other main contenders are the consistent Happy Trails, in form Jacquinot Bay, and fellow import, Au Revoir, who stayed on after the Cup and won the Zipping ClassicReal Love the WA mare was disappointing in the Orr Stakes, but on her day is pretty smart in distance races, so I’ll be interested to see how she runs on Saturday.

In contrast to the small field of the Futurity Stakes, the second Group 1 race, the Oakleigh Plate, has a full field of 18 runners.  Last year’s  Blue Diamond Stakes winner Earthquake is one of them and with her light weight advantage could win her first race in open company. The race is run over 1100 metres, so it’s designed for speed. Other contenders with claims are Bel Sprinter who goes really well first up, Flamberge who ran a close second to Chautauqua at his last start in the Rubiton Stakes, Atmospherical who ran third on that occasion, speedy mares Shamal Wind and Vain Queen, and Lord of the Sky who recently won a barrier trial by 8 lengths, but in whom I’ve completely lost faith. He may prove me wrong on Saturday, but I’ll be barracking for Earthquake.

Anything can happen in the Blue Diamond Stakes, but over the last four years it has been won by the favourite – Earthquake (2014),  Miracles of Life (2013) Samaready (2012) & Sepoy (2011).

The hot favourite this year, and top pick on form, is Fontiton who has won the fillies Blue Diamond Preview and Prelude and can’t be faulted. She has drawn Barrier 1, either a blessing or a curse. Last year Earthquake won from Barrier 15, but Miracles of Light won from Barrier 1 the year before, thanks to clever rides by their respective jockeys. 

Fontiton’s main opposition comes from stable mate Thurlow and the colts Of The Brave, Pride of Dubai and Stoker.

On Friday night at Moonee Valley exciting filly Sistonic is racing in the Group 3 Typhoon Tracy Stakes against a field of fellow three year old fillies.  I’d love to to be there to watch her, but as the race is run at 9.15 pm it’s out of the question with the big race day at Caulfield being the more attractive proposition. However, I’ll certainly watch it online on Friday night.

Warwick Farm in Sydney hosts the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600 metres) and its field leaves the Futurity Stakes field for dead with the likes of Boban, Silent Achiever, Lucia Valentina, Contributor, Hawkspur, He’s Your Man and nine others, including Fiveandahalfstar having his second start after a long break.

Contributor who won the Apollo Stakes a fortnight ago is the hot favourite to take this race out. Chris Waller trained horses have won the  Chipping Norton for the last four years. He has 8 runners this year of whom Boban (won last year), He’s Your Man and Weary are his nominated  top chances.  Lucia Valentina has a history of being flat second up and firing third up, and as this is her second start for the autumn. Silent Achiever was a star of the Sydney autumn last year winning both the Ranvet Stakes and The BMW. She ran fifth in the Apollo Stakes, which was a bit short for her, so she could very well win or run a place.

Counting this weekend, there are only three major race meetings   remaining for the Autumn Carnival in Melbourne, so I’m making the most of it while I can.

However, the annual concert season is almost upon us, and so far have tickets for three shows, the first being renowned British singer songwriter Richard Thompson next Wednesday at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lankan Rupee–Lightning Fast

race 7 _lightning_lankan rupee 3
Lankan Rupee  returns to scale after winning the Black Caviar Lightning

It was a day of weird weather, chaotic public transport and fabulous racing action, capped by the stunning victory of Lankan Rupee in the feature race.

Due to several events coinciding on Saturday – White Night, Cirque du Sol, Soundwave Festival and of course the Lightning Stakes meeting at Flemington - public transport was disrupted. When my local train arrived at Flinders Street Station I was expecting to step onto a Flemington Racecourse train on another platform as usual.  I was obliged to catch another train to Southern Cross station and link up to the racecourse train there. I found it on Platform 8A  and hastily boarded, only to have the train sit idle for another 15 minutes before it departed.  Coming home was hellish, but more about that later.

So I was rather later arriving at the track than I anticipated. I did manage to get there in time to watch race 3 The Vanity, and get some photos of the field.

race 3_set square 2
Set Square who ran second

race 3_wawail 1
Wawail who ran third

race 3_sweet and speedy  2
Sweet and Speedy – the winner -  returns to scale

After that race I headed to the stalls area to see who had turned up.

I found WA colt Disposition in his stall…

disposition_stalls 3

…and Tawteen who was being prepared for the next race

tawteen_stalls 1

Race 4 was the Indian Summer Handicap and I was expecting Tawteen to at least run a place, but she faded in the straight and finished 7th. The winner was Chloe in Paris.

race 4_chloe in paris 2
Chloe in Paris leaving the mounting yard for the track

Runway Star finished second with Sweet Emily taking out third spot.

race 4_sweet emily 1
Sweet Emily on her way to the track

The early part of the afternoon was hot and sunny, before clouds started to build up over the course. It was a welcome relief to have the sun obscured but it was still very humid and oppressive.

Back in the stalls area, a number of new arrivals were waiting patiently in their stalls. Naturally I made sure to visit Lankan Rupee who was looking a picture of health.

lankan rupee_stalls 1

And at one time was communing with stable mate Dany The Fox in the adjacent stall

lankan rupee_dany the fox
Lankan Rupee with  Dany the Fox

A few stalls away, Deep Field had quite crowd of admirers in front of his stall.

deep field_stalls 1
Deep Field in his stall

Brazen Beau was close by looking as handsome as ever.

brazen beau_stalls 1
Brazen Beau in his stall

I also went and visited Silent Witness, the Living Legends representative for the afternoon, and gave him a pat as he grazed on the rose bushes.

silent witness 2
Silent Witness

The fifth race on the program was the Lawn Handicap an unlisted race over 1400 metres.  I made it back to the public lawn in time to watch the race. It was won by Gracious Prospect with Swift Shadow and Amorino running second and third.

race 5_return to scale
Also rans The Wingman and Infinite Energy return to scale after the Lawn Handicap

There was only one more race before the Lightning was due to run. This was the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes for Guineas bound colts and geldings.

Disposition was the favourite, but he was denied victory by the Gai Waterhouse trained Wandjina winning by a narrow margin. Stratum Star ran third.

Here are some of the contenders in the mounting yard

race 6 _disposition 3

race 6 _stratum star 1
Stratum Star

race 6 _wandjina 1
Wandjina – ear muffs and all

race 6 _merion 2
Merion ran fourth

A big dark cloud had by this time gathered over the course and the odd drop of rain was falling as lightning flashed and thunder rolled. Quite ironic really considering that the Black Caviar Lightning was up next.  There was a glitch in the video coverage caused by an electrical disturbance, so the feature event was delayed until the storm had passed.

Sky over Flemington at around 4.15pm

The storm mostly bypassed Flemington as the city and northern suburbs were subjected to a torrential downpour with only a passing shower hitting the course.

Anyway it was finally time for the race we had all be waiting for, the famous 60 second dash down the straight.

The horses had no sooner entered the mounting yard than they were mounted and heading for the track.

race 7 _lightning_lankan rupee 2
Lankan Rupee

race 7 _lightning_brazen beau 1
Brazen Beau

race 7 _lightning_deep field 2
Deep Field

Lankan Rupee’s trainer, Mick Price, stated several days ago the he was training the horse to take a sit during a race to conserve his blistering sprint until the end.  Previously his pattern was to race on the speed and was therefore left a sitting duck as back markers swooped and overtook him. This is what happened in the Darley Classic last Spring when he finished third behind Terravista and Chautauqua.

Deep Field started as favourite for the Black Caviar Lightning, but had his colours lowered, being left wanting in the straight.

The early leader was Fab Fevola who raced all by his lonesome on the outside. The rest were bunched in the centre Lankan Rupee running just behind Deep Field, stride for stride with Brazen Beau, who was on Deep Field’s inside.  Lankan Rupee took off at the 200 metre mark and sailed effortlessly past Deep Field with Brazen Beau in hot pursuit. Lankan Rupee won by nearly three lengths with Brazen Beau finishing second, relegating Deep Field to third place.

I was delighted with Lankan Rupee’s win, though I didn’t have any money wagered on the race.  The new race tactics worked a treat courtesy of the superbly timed ride of Craig Newitt, who made a special trip from his current residency in Singapore to ride the beautiful horse with a heart.

race 7 _lightning_lankan rupee 6
Lankan Rupee parades in the mounting yard after his win

Lankan Rupee’s next assignment is the Newmarket Handicap on
14 March, a race he won last year.  It will also have a top class field. Can Lankan Rupee turn the tables on Chautauqua and Terravista this time?

Throughout the afternoon I took time out to watch the race action in Sydney and was pleased to see Catkins win the Millie Fox Stakes from Plucky Belle and Avoid Lightning.

Hallowed Crown won the Hobartville Stakes, defeating a top field. Sweynesse finished second with Kermadec running third and the Silver Slipper was won by Headwater from Voilier and Mishani Honcho. Ottoman finished fourth.

I left Flemington after the Lightning Stakes and made it back to Southern Cross station. I should have caught another train to Flinders Street, but decided I would tram it the rest of the way home. This was a mistake, as I’d forgotten all about the White Night, and trams were few and far between, most of the central CBD being blocked to traffic.

Signage or information on tram movements was non existent.  In the end I caught a tram to the corner of Queen and Bourke Streets, then walked to La Trobe Street in the hope of connecting with an 86 tram to take me home.  I eventually found out that 86 trams were only running from the Nicholson and Gertrude Street corner.  So I caught a tram in La Trobe to Nicholson Street and walked to Gertrude,  finally managing to board the 86 tram and get home almost two hours after leaving Flemington race course.

Next week the racing is at Caulfield and features the Blue Diamond Stakes and two other Group 1 races, the Oakleigh Plate and Futurity Stakes. 

The racing action intensifies from now on in both Melbourne and Sydney as the Autumn Racing Carnival gears up for the Sydney Championships and in Melbourne, the Australia Cup.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Black Caviar Lightning 2015 Edition

lankan rupee_gallop
Lankan Rupee exhibition gallop 14/2/15  at Caulfield

A great day of racing is coming up tomorrow with the prospect of the Black Caviar Lightning already quickening the excitement of first class racing with two of the top sprinters going head to head in the feature race.

Only six horses have accepted for the race – shades of the days when Black Caviar (after whom the race is named of course) graced the turf. The field however, though small, is select, with Lankan Rupee and the unbeaten and much hyped Deep Field both among the acceptances. Also in the mix is the handsome Brazen Beau who was last seen at Flemington winning the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes on Derby Day.

The above three are the main contenders and it is hard choose between them other than my personal preference for Lankan Rupee. Deep Field is having his first start at Group 1 level, and has won at Flemington over 1200 metres in a Listed race on Derby Day last spring.

But before the feature race is run, there are a number of interesting events beforehand.

I don’t think I’ll make it to the track by the first race, the Listed Talindert Stakes for two year olds. Half of the field are having their first start  and the one everyone will be watching is the filly Stay With Me who is a daughter of former champion filly Miss Finland by Street Cry.  Whether she’ll win is another matter, as she is up against a few more experienced youngsters in Jameka and Ragazzo Del Corsa.

Hopefully I will be at Flemington in time for Race 3, The Vanity, a Group 3 race for three year old fillies over 1400 metres. It has quite a classy field headed by 2014 Crown Oaks winner Set Square and the so far unbeaten Wawail aiming for her fifth win in succession.

Tawteen was originally nominated for the Black Caviar Lightning, but her connections opted for the easier Indian Summer  Handicap a race for fillies and mares over 1000 metres, where she has a better chance of winning. Her main opposition comes from Runway Star, Antarctic Missile, Cobblestones and Chloe In Paris.

The Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes is a race for Guineas bound three year colts and geldings run over 1400 metres.  The interesting runner  in this is Disposition, another classy West Australian having his first start in the eastern states. He ran a very close second in the Group 2 WA Guineas and the Group 1 Kingston Town Stakes and prior to that had been unbeaten in four runs. He is however up against the likes of San Nicasio, Stratum Star, Merion, Chivalry and Lucky Liberty.

The races in Sydney are at Rosehill this Saturday and the feature race on that course is the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes. For three year olds run over 1400 metres, it has attracted a really exciting field that contains Victoria Derby winner Preferment, Caulfield Guineas winner Shooting To Win, Golden Rose winner Hallowed Crown, Spring Champion winner Hampton Court and other smart runners like Scissor Kick and Delectation. The sole filly is Thunder Lady who won the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes and ran second in the Crown Oaks.

Old favourite Catkins, who kicked of her autumn campaign two weeks ago in the Group 2 Breeders Classic, winning it for the second time, resumes in the Group 2 Millie Fox Stakes (1300 metres).  She barely overcame Lilliburlero  in the aforementioned Breeders Classic and will be up against her again, along with the well performed Avoid Lightning and Mardi, but I hope Catkins rewards her many fans with another win.

Also run at Rosehill on Saturday is the Group 2 Silver Slipper Stakes, a sort of preview of the Golden Slipper Stakes, where I’m interested in seeing how impressive first start winner Ottoman performs.  Main chances other than Ottoman are Headwater and Paceman and Voilier who all won their first starts as well.

The weather in Melbourne tomorrow will be hot and sunny, so the track will be good. Despite the heat, I’m looking forward to being trackside at beautiful Flemington again.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Omen Bets off: A Day for Favourites Instead

race 8_orr stakes_dissident 7
Dissident returns to scale after winning the CF Orr Stakes

It certainly was a long day at the races on Saturday, and fortunately after a wild wet and stormy night, the weather cleared to a bright and sunny afternoon and dried the track to a good racing surface.

I got to Caulfield in plenty of time to watch the second race , the Kevin Hayes Stakes and was pleased that my assessment in my last post that Afleet Esprit, Sabatini, Fontein Ruby and Royal Snitzel would be in the finish, proved spot on, with Sabatini taking the prize from Royal Snitzel with Fontein Ruby running third and Afleet Esprit fourth.

race 2_finish 2
Sabatini hits the front , bursting between Fontein Ruby (outside) and Royal Snitzel (obscured)

The interval between races was 35 minutes early in the afternoon so there wasn’t long to wait for the first of the Blue Diamond Preludes to run. Fontiton was the short priced favourite for the fillies event and didn’t disappoint winning by a comfortable margin of 1¾ lengths from outsider Miss Gidget with Flamboyant Lass filling third position.

race 3_fontiton 5
Fontiton in the mounting yard

race 3_miss gidget 2
Miss Gidget on her way to the barriers

race 3_flamboyant lass 1
Flamboyant Lass in the mounting yard

race  3_finish 1
Blue Diamond Prelude (fillies) finish – Fontiton (blue checks) is about to pass Miss Gidget in the straight – Flamboyant Lass is a length behind.

Fontiton looks the most likely Blue Diamond winner at this stage. She’s one smart filly and her multitude of owners must consider themselves very lucky to have a share in her.

On St Valentine’s Day it was appropriate that Lankan Rupee, the horse with the heart, would be present for the occasion. He was not contesting any of the races, but there for an exhibition gallop. This was rumoured to occur between the third and fourth races.  However, the presentation for the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude went on so long that it was impossible at that time and took place after race 4.

I caught up with the love horse in his stall…

lankan rupee_stalls 5
Lankan Rupee in his stall

And later watched his exhibition gallop between races four and five.

lankan rupee_gallop
Lankan Rupee charges down the straight in an exhibition gallop.

In the colts and geldings Blue Diamond Prelude  Of The Brave started as favourite and he delivered, though only narrowly. In the straight he looked an easy winner, leading by several lengths, but Pride of Dubai, finishing fast on the outside almost stole the race. It ended up being a photo finish with Of The Brave getting the nod by a nose.

race 4 _finish 1
Of the Brave easily leads at this stage with Pride of Dubai back in the main pack (yellow silks & blue cap)

race 4 _finish 2
Pride of Dubai narrows the gap a moment later - Of The Brave still leads

race 4 _of the brave 3
Of The Brave parades after winning the colts Blue Diamond Prelude

Race 5 was the Group 3 Carlyon Cup run over 1600 metres. I was looking forward to seeing the Sydney horse Red Excitement but he had been scratched Saturday morning.  Jacquinot Bay was the logical favourite, but was pipped at the post by Smokin’ Joey.

race 5_jacquinot bay 2
Jacquinot Bay on his way to the barriers

race 5_smokin joey 2
Smokin’ Joey on his way to the starting gates

race 5_finish 2
Race 5 finish – Smokin’ Joey storms down the outside to win on the line

All eyes were on classy sprinter Chautauqua in the next race, the time honoured Rubiton Stakes. Chautauqua hasn’t raced since finishing second to Terravista in the Darley Classic on Emirate Stakes Day last spring, but had won his previous two starts in sizzling fashion.

race 6_chautauqua 1
Chautauqua saddled up and ready to go in his stall before the race

Chautauqua ran at the back end of the field for most of the race and was blocked for a run in the straight. However, once clear,  he stormed down the outside to overtake Flamberge to win by a neck. Atmospherical ran third.

race 6_chautauqua 2
Chautauqua poses for the press corps after winning the Rubiton Stakes

I only had one bet all afternoon, as most of my fancies were the favourites and not worth betting on. I decided I’d have a bet on Hong Kong Captain in the next race, which happened to be the Autumn Stakes.  Profit Share was the favourite, but both he and Hong Kong Captain finished unplaced. Overlooked longshot San Nicasio was the winner with Zebulon and Firehouse Rock filling the minor places.

race 7_san nicasio 2
San Nicasio on his way to the barriers

race 7_finish 1
Race 7 finish – San Nicasio leads comfortably down the straight

San Nicasio was the first of a double for Peter Moody who has been out of the winners circle recently and Dissident delivered the second.

It was late afternoon by the time the feature race of the day, the Group 1 Orr Stakes was due to start. I must admit I was somewhat wearied by then after being trackside for four hours, so it was a relief to get it over with, though worth the wait.

race 8_orr stakes_dissident 4
Dissident on his way to barriers

Dissident raced up with the speed in third or fourth spot and came down the outside in the straight to overtake the leaders Java and Entirely Platinum to go on for a solid 1½ length win. Entirely Platinum held on for second and Mourinho ran third.

race 8_orr stakes_finish 2
Orr Stakes finish - Dissident hits the front with Mourinho on his outside and Entirely Platinum (orange silks) on the inside.

As I didn’t bet on the race I didn’t have to hang around for correct weight so headed for the station and home, weary but pleased to have  a Saturday afternoon at the races again.

My next four Saturday afternoons are covered, as the Melbourne autumn racing carnival heats up. Next weekend Flemington hosts the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes, where Lankan Rupee will be contending with a classy field of pretenders to the title of top Australian sprinter. The so far unbeaten Deep Field is one of them and Coolmore Stud Stakes winner Brazen Beau is another. It promises to be a great race.

I sporadically watched the Sydney races at Caulfield when I remembered to do so, and the results were less reliable than those in Melbourne. Contributor won the Apollo Stakes and 50/1 shot Adrift stole the Light Fingers Stakes from second favourite First Seal.

I was however pleased with the result of Sydney race 3, as I’d had a bet on Haptic on my online Sportsbet account and he payed very well, boosting my ailing account to a respectable amount, plus giving me a bonus $10.00 free bet to use at my leisure.

None of the Valentine’s Day omen bets came anywhere – all finished unplaced. I didn’t hazard a wager on any of them I should add.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In The Mood For Romance…

race 6_chautauqua 7
Chautauqua begins his autumn campaign this weekend

The romance of the turf, I mean, seeing as the autumn racing season kicks off on Saturday, St Valentine’s Day.  I’m too old for the other sort of romance (perish the thought) so the romance of racing is it for me.

Caulfield reopens its gates for the first time since the Caulfield Cup, to host the first Group 1 race of the season and the meeting also includes several choice Group 2 and 3 events as well to be run on the newly resurfaced track.

To digress, it has been a technologically trying week with my new computer developing a serious hard drive problem over the weekend, where, after a series of BSOD (blue screen of death) incidents the operating system refused to load. Fortunately, the hard drive in question, a SSD (solid state drive), was the one on which all programs were loaded, and had hardly any data saved on it. I store my data files on a second internal hard drive.

I did have an inkling that all was not well after the BSODs, so hastened to save essential stuff on my C: drive, such as email addresses, messages etc. to the secondary E: drive, so I didn’t lose anything important.

Back to the computer shop we went early on Monday and they had a new SSD installed with a fresh install of Windows 7 ready by Tuesday afternoon. It only took me a day to set it all up this time, after the tedium of the initial set up back in April last year which had me trying to install the printer driver for a week. Now the computer is back in business and performing better than before.

So it will be a pleasant break from computer woes attending the races tomorrow.

As was the case last summer, Caulfield is calling its program of summer racing “Relaxed Racing”, and in their wisdom have scheduled the feature race for 5.50pm, so it will a long day trackside as I want to get to the course by the second race.

Race 2 is the Group 3 Kevin Hayes Stakes for three year old fillies run over 1200 metres. Most of the fillies engaged in the race are resuming from a spell, and there are several familiar names among the contenders – Fontein Ruby, Afleet Esprit, Sabatini and Royal Snitzel. The winner will most probably be one of the above.

The third and fourth races on the program are of great interest in terms of assessing the current two year old crop for the upcoming Blue Diamond Stakes.  The Group 2 Blue Diamond Prelude  (1100 metres) for fillies is run first and the raging favourite is Fontiton who has won her only two starts, the last being the fillies Blue Diamond Preview on Australia Day. Her main rivals are Flamboyant Lass, Heatherly and Secret Agenda who all won their last races.

The colts and geldings Prelude is harder to assess, but I fancy Of The Brave who I witnessed winning his first race back in October at Caulfield. He is a half brother to the speedy Eloping and looks to share  her talent.  Others with a chance are Darley colts Bantam and Sampeah.

The Carlyon Cup is a Group 3 race run over 1600 metres, and the field has a mix of stayers and middle distance runners. The most interesting of them is Sydney horse Red Excitement who has a remarkable CV with a picket fence of wins against his name.  He’ll have to beat the very fit and in form  Jacquinot Bay who has won his last three starts. 

Top sprinter Chautauqua, resuming after spell, is the hot favourite to take out the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100 metres). Top challengers are three year old fillies Eloping and Oakleigh Girl and four year old mares Atmospherical and Missy Longstocking.

Race 7, the Group 2 Autumn Stakes for three year olds looks like a match race between Hong Kong Captain and Profit Share, both having recent wins under their belts.

The feature race is the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes run over 1400 metres.  Past winners of this race include Black Caviar, Typhoon Tracy (twice), All Too Hard, Lonhro and Saintly among many illustrious champions of the turf. Last year it was won by Moment of Change.

This year’s edition looks rather uninspiring with the class horses in the field being Happy Trails resuming and  Dissident, whobegan his autumn campaign at Moonee Valley in January to run third in the Australia Stakes behind Mourinho who is also in the field and has to be respected. There are two three year olds in the field – Petrology and Java – who with the weight advantage could steal the show. Java has the distinction of beating Hong Kong Captain two starts back and Petrology at his last start. And Chris Waller also has two runners who wouldn’t surprise with a win considering Waller’s reputation, these being Bagman and Beaten Up.

The omen bet for St Valentines Day is WA mare Real Love who has great form over longer distances, but has won over 1400 metres in the past.  West Australian horses either thrive in the eastern states – Northerly and Marasco are two that come mind – or disappoint like recent visitors Luckygray and Mr Moet. Will Real Love emulate the former or the latter West Australian champs in her sojourn in the east?

There are more Valentine’s Day omen bets running in Sydney, most notably Lucia Valentina and He’s Your Man in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes, which has a much classier field than the Orr Stakes with  Boban, Foreteller, Hawkspur, Weary, Diamond Drille and Silent Achiever being contenders as well.

In fact the race card at Randwick on Saturday is much more interesting than Caulfield’s with classy gallopers like Golden Slipper winner Mossfun resuming from an injury induced spell in the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes along with Flight Stakes winner First Seal and Thousand Guineas winner Amicus who are also in the race.

After a two year absence due to a tendon injury, it’s good to welcome back the lately lamented Super Cool’s great rival Fiveandahalfstar in the Group 3  Southern Cross Stakes. It being a 1200 metre race he is not expected to win it, but it sure will be interesting watching him in action again.

So the racing scene will be hot this weekend and no doubt the weather will be too. It is forecast to be a humid and warm day tomorrow with the threat of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. Let’s hope that the storm that overtook Flemington on Australia Cup day in 2010 will not be repeated at Caulfield tomorrow.

It’s raining in Melbourne as I write this so who knows how the newly laid  track at Caulfield Racecourse will play.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

A Family Affair at Moonee Valley

sistonic_stalls 4
Sistonic in her stall at Moonee Valley on 30 January 2015

On the 15th January this year, a three quarter sister to Black Caviar had her first start in a lowly race at Sale. Her name is Sistonic and she is by Bel Esprit from Danavia who is the sister of Helsinge, Black Caviar’s dam.

Sistonic won that race by 4½ lengths from Blocker Dee with apparent ease. Blocker Dee franked that form by winning his next start by the same margin.

So there was quite a flurry of interest in Sistonic  having her second start in a city race. Naturally I was curious, as I’d watched the footage of her Sale race and thought her win impressive, so I went along to the Moonee Valley race meeting on Friday evening ostensibly to see her in action.

I arrived early so I could get to see her close up in her stall. As an added bonus in the stall adjacent to Sistonic was Tawteen who I was also interested in watching in the 955 metre 55 second challenge.  She’s a lovely dark brown, almost black, filly with a white diamond on her forehead.

tawteen_stalls 2
Tawteen in her stall

A couple of stalls up from the two fillies was Hay One, the full brother to Black Caviar’s great rival Hay List. He’s a very big young horse, like his brother, but is yet to win or even place in a race from five starts.

race 2_hay one 1
Hay One saddled up for the McMahon’s Dairy Plate, the second race on the program.

I watched race 2 from the fence. It was won by the favourite Miniver from Avalon Downs and Any Glory. Hay One finished second last.

race 2_miniver 3
Miniver on her way to the barriers before winning the McMahon’s Dairy Plate.

The next race, the Reg Delaney Memorial Handicap was the one I had come to see with Sistonic starting short priced favourite.  Run over 1200 metres Sistonic was up against seven fellow three year old fillies. She breezed to a win after leading the charge from start to finish. She won by ¾ length from Distraught with Zambezi Diamond running third.  It doesn’t sound like much of a margin, but she was eased approaching line and still made it look effortless. Her jockey was admonished after the race for pulling her up too soon, because if let run at her high cruising speed she would have won by a couple of lengths.

race3 _finish
Race 3 finish down the straight – Sistonic leads comfortably

It was all very reminiscent of Black Caviar’s early races, so it will be exciting watching her from now on.

race3_sistonic 7
Sistonic returns to scale after winning the Reg Delaney Memorial Handicap

She is a big strapping filly like her big sister and has a calm temperament by all accounts. She certainly looked calm and collected in the parade ring before the race as if she’d been going to the races for years.

As you can see it was still daylight during the first three or four races, but the shadow cast by grandstand over the track made it difficult to get clear photos.

Race 4 was the Jeep 55 Second Challenge run over 955 metres. The 55 second challenge is a series of 16 pure speed races run at the Moonee Valley night meetings over summer, the object being to break the 55 second mark over the distance.  The trainer of the horse that runs closest to the 55 second mark over the season wins a jeep. Last Friday night Moonee Valley were offering half priced schooners if the winner completed the race under 56 seconds. The current fastest time is 55.08 held by Beach Front who was one of the field last Friday.

Tawteen started as warm favourite, kicking off her autumn season in the race.

It certainly was a speedy race and Tawteen, flashing from the barriers, led from start to finish, winning by a length from Settler’s Road with Beach Front running third. Tawteen’s time was 55.76, so the patrons could at least enjoy cheap schooners, though Tawteen’s trainer David Hayes was out of luck as far as the jeep was concerned.

Tawteen flashes down the straight with Beach Front in hot pursuit.

race4_tawteen 4
Tawteen returns to scale after winning the Jeep 55 Second Challenge.

I called it quits after that race and made my way to the bus stop to await the last bus home, pleased to have been present to witness a possible future star of the turf in action. Whatever,  I’m hanging on to the race book in case Sistonic matches the achievements of her big sister,  in which case it will be worth a lot of money in the future. Black Caviar’s early race books sell for a goodly amount on Ebay.